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Have a ball while exercising! The benefits of an exercise ball for active senior living

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    Balance training and exercise prevents fall-induced injuries, and leads to a more active, independent senior life.

    Balance training and exercise prevents fall-induced injuries, and leads to a more active, independent senior life.

    Add an element of fun to your fitness routine – have a ball! People everywhere – including seniors – are discovering the benefits of working out with a stability ball. 

    Because fitness balls help improve balance and strength without putting stress on bones and joints, they are a particularly useful fitness tool for seniors to help maintain an independent, active lifestyle.

    Remember that, like any exercise program, using a fitness ball takes a little getting used to. You may want to ask your doctor or work with a physical therapist or trainer at first to learn the techniques that are best for your personal fitness goals. But here are a couple of simple exercises you can try with an exercise ball to help improve balance and strength.

    Balance
    A French study published in the BMJ, formerly known as the British Medical Journal, discovered that balance training and exercise prevents fall-induced injuries. Specifically, the study revealed balance exercises reduced falls that caused fractured or broken bones by 61 percent, falls that caused serious injuries by 43 percent and falls that caused any injuries by 37 percent.

    Here are two exercises provided by the California Orthopaedic Association to help improve balance:

    Sitting 

    • For stability, the Livestrong Foundation recommends positioning the exercise ball against a wall.
    • On an exercise ball, sit with your feet on the floor, hip-width apart.
    • Try to keep your back straight, from your hips to your neck and head, without teetering.
    • Continue for one to two minutes.

    Once you have become comfortable with the sitting exercise, take it to the next level with a marching exercise.

    Marching

    • On an exercise ball, sit with your feet on the floor, hip-width apart.
    • Keeping your back straight, lift one leg and bring your knee as close to your chest as possible, then return your foot back to the floor. Do not raise your knee higher than what is comfortable.
    • Alternate legs in a marching fashion.
    • Repeat for one to two minutes, or for eight to 12 repetitions.

    Strength
    Using an exercise ball to improve core strength can engage twice as many muscles as standard core exercises such as sit-ups, according to an Occidental College study. To begin building muscle, the American Council on Exercise suggests exercising at least three times per week, with one set of eight to 12 repetitions for each muscle group.

    Here are two exercises to improve strength:

    Hip circles

    • On an exercise ball, sit with your feet on the floor, hip-width apart.
    • Rotate your hips, moving the ball, in a clockwise position.
    • Make a full circle five to eight times.
    • Repeat in a counterclockwise position.

    Leg lifts

    • On an exercise ball, sit with your feet on the floor, hip-width apart.
    • Keeping your back straight, lift one leg off of the ground and extend it for five seconds.
    • Repeat with opposite leg.
    • Continue for eight to 12 repetitions.

    Be sure to consult with a physician or physical therapist before beginning exercise ball workouts. They will be able to personalize these techniques to fit your health needs.


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